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Ryan Byrne/INPHO Referee Thomas Gleeson during the Christy Ring Cup final between Derry and Offaly.
# Incident
Dublin hurling final referee recalls underage manager assaulting him after U11 game
‘He followed me all the way out to the car and basically pushed me just before I got in,’ explains Thomas Gleeson.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 14th 2022, 8:38 AM

DUBLIN SENIOR HURLING final referee Thomas Gleeson has described an incident early in his career where he was physically assaulted after taking charge of an U11s game in the capital. 

Gleeson was speaking at a media event in Croke Park yesterday as the GAA launched a new ’Respect the Referee’ campaign.

In the early 2000s, the experienced whistler was three years into his refereeing career when the incident took place. Fortunately, it was the sole time physical abuse happened in his career.

“In Dublin GAA there are skill points awarded so after a match I said a certain club won,” he explained.

“The manager of the other team came up and said I was wrong. He followed me all the way out to the car and basically pushed me just before I got into my friend’s car. 

“That was three years into it. Since then, nothing has really happened. More verbal stuff than anything. Again, I had the right people around me, the right surroundings around me, to keep refereeing because it was something that I was really enjoying and I wanted to keep doing.”

Gleeson reported the incident to his club coordinator and the mentor was hit with a six month suspension.

“At the end of the day, it shouldn’t happen. Because if that happens to maybe one or two other lads who don’t have what I had in place, or if I hadn’t the right people around me, where would they or I would be today would be ominous.”

Gleeson, who also took charge of the live televised county semi-final between Kilmacud Crokes and Ballyboden St Enda’s last weekend, is heavily involved in the GAA in Dublin. 

He works for the county board as a Games Promotion Officer and coached under Darren Benham with Scoil Ui Chonaill this year. 

He previously coached his home club Naomh Fionnbarra to the senior B title in 2020, while he also worked with the Dublin minor camogie team in the past. 

From his work as GPO with Clontarf outfit Scoil Ui Chonaill, Gleeson says silent sidelines have to happen.

“You have parents roaring and screaming from the sidelines but they don’t know the rules. So the referee could be 100% right and the parents could be 100% but then the referee will think that he or she is not doing a good job and then everything goes all over the place.

“Definitely silent sidelines is something that the GAA overall should be looking into, rather than just in each and every club every so often putting it in place, every club should have it in place.”

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thomas-gleeson Tom Maher / INPHO Thomas Gleeson at the GAA's Referee Respect media event. Tom Maher / INPHO / INPHO

Derry recently became the first county to enforce silent sidelines across the board at underage level this year. 

“It’s brilliant. It helps the referee focus more on the game and on the rules and focus more on teaching the players the right techniques rather than the wrong techniques.”

Despite all the recent talk around abuse of officials in the GAA, Gleeson insists he finds refereeing a hugely positive experience. 

“Ah yeah, it’s brilliant. I played at a fairly high level football and hurling with my own club but I knew I wasn’t going to get to where I wanted.

“Then the referee co-ordinator came to me when I was 13 or 14, he gave me a course and it’s just something I’ve never looked back on, it was the best opportunity I ever took. Last year I made the Liam MacCarthy hurling panel.

“It took me a long time to get there but I enjoyed every single step of it and I would encourage every single young lad who wants to referee to follow in the footsteps of the referee co-ordinator in the club, to go to provincial, and obviously go to the national themselves.” 

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